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Losses at Bella Italia owner widen as pressure mounts on beleaguered sector

The company, which also operates La Tasca and Belgo, posted a £60 million loss for the year.

Cafe Rouge

Casual Dining Group, the owner of restaurant chains Cafe Rouge and Bella Italia, saw losses widen last year in a further sign of the malaise affecting the eating out market.

The company, which also operates La Tasca and Belgo, posted a £60 million loss for the year to May 2017, 18% worse than losses suffered the previous year.

It blamed a “difficult trading environment” and “challenging conditions” linked to weak consumer confidence and the collapse in the Brexit-hit pound, which has seen costs soar while also pushing prices up for hard-pressed diners.

The likes of Byron, Prezzo and Jamie’s Italian have all shut large swathes of their store estates recently as the sector is also hammered by large increases in business rates.

It comes as the CDG boss Steve Richards joined industry big hitters in writing a letter to Chancellor Philip Hammond, warning over the cost of doing business in the troubled sector.

“Our business, along with many others operating in the hospitality sector up and down the country, is set to be saddled with inflation-busting business rate hikes next month”, he said.

He added: “High business rates stifle the sector’s growth potential and ability to create more jobs.”

CDG also pointed to the National Living Wage, the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy and increases in employer’s pension contributions as part of a string of costs pressures it is facing.

Like-for-like sales nudged up 2.2% and revenue rose 10% to £329 million across the group, which employs more than 10,000 people across 300 locations.